What holiday movies will your kids be watching this Christmas? The Polar Express? Elf? The Grinch? With so many recent additions to the Christmas film library, is there still an interest in watching A Charlie Brown Christmas? As it turns out, the themes within this classic are timeless. From dealing with depression to learning about the true meaning of Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas remains as relevant today as it did during its debut in 1965.
One key message addressed in A Charlie Brown Christmas shows how the holidays can trigger depression in people. As the movie starts, kids see Charlie Brown sulking. He admits liking the Christmas presents that he will be receiving, but he cannot get over feeling down in the dumps. To make matters worse, he feels forgotten as well. This is evident when he finds his mailbox empty; no one has sent him a Christmas card. Many kids can relate to the feelings Charlie has. While many people do not know how to seek help when feelings of depression arise, Charlie reaches out to his friend Lucy. Comically, Lucy charges Charlie a nickel for her psychiatric advice. Her “professional” approach is not what one would expect from a licensed doctor, but she does recommend to Charlie something that can help those feeling blue: involvement in an activity. Directing a play for his peers is not an activity that many would readily take on, but children will admire Charlie Brown’s bravery to do this for his peers. In the end, this turns out to be just what Charlie needs to bring him out of the winter blues.
Christmas movies like How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Home Alone, and It’s a Wonderful Life teach lessons about materialism just like A Charlie Brown Christmas does. From Lucy’s love of “cold, hard cash” to Snoopy’s drive to win first prize in a decorating contest, Charlie’s friends too often focus on material things instead of the meaning of Christmas. Charlie’s best friend Linus shares Charlie’s point of view when he declares that Christmas is too commercialized. Even Charlie’s own sister Sally is wrapped up in the idea of money and presents. While dictating a letter to Santa, she explains to her brother that she “want[s] her fair share.” This mindset disappoints her brother who goes on to seek out the real meaning of Christmas.
Kids can also relate to this movie when it stirs up feelings about what it means to please others. As play director, Charlie Brown has the task of selecting a Christmas tree for use on stage, one that captures the “modern spirit” of Christmas. He and Linus venture out to pick a tree, and Charlie’s choice is one that is pathetic when compared to other trees that are available. Charlie believes that this little sapling of a tree just needs love in order for it to thrive. At first, Charlie’s choice brings him derision from his peers. They call him “stupid,” “dumb,” and “hopeless.” Everyone has a laugh at Charlie Brown, even Snoopy. Children will see that the characters are acting very superficial and mean. Charlie believes that their behavior is not how they should be acting during this special time of the year. He asks for someone to explain to him the meaning of Christmas. Linus tells Charlie and the others that he understands what Christmas is all about. With that, Linus enlightens Charlie and his peers. A change begins to take place after they all hear Linus give a speech about the birth of Christ – the true meaning of Christmas.
Kids will think that Charlie is destined to be alone with his poor pick of a tree. Charlie takes it outside and decides he will try to decorate it. This does not work out so well for Charlie, and kids’ hearts are sure to feel heavy as Charlie’s single ornament becomes too much for the tree to bear. However, as children continue to watch the story unfold, they will see how friends can rally to make life great. Charlie Brown’s friends take it upon themselves to make a proper Christmas tree out of the mere twig Charlie had first presented to them. Using the decorations Snoopy had for his doghouse, the children work as a team to make the tree look flawless. It is a small act of kindness that Charlie greatly appreciates, one that youngsters will applaud.
This Christmas, do not pass over a classic just because it is old. Movies like A Charlie Brown Christmas still have the power to inspire hope, happiness, and goodwill toward men.